About 100 people — family, friends and admirers — gathered Sunday to remember the life of celebrated poet, Lucia Perillo, who died Oct. 16 in Olympia. She was 58.
The setting for the celebration of life was the Woman’s Club of Olympia. Before the afternoon program began, people mingled and hugged one another as music played in the background. Food and drinks also were served, while some grabbed an early seat in anticipation of the program.
Roxanne Lieb of Olympia attended because she was a longtime admirer of the poet. She bought all her books after Perillo won a MacArthur Fellowship and attended many of her readings.
She also showed a reporter one of her favorite Perillo poems called “Virtue is the best helmet,” including the following passage, “One of these days I’m going to get myself an avatar.”
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Lieb said it was example of her acknowledging the physical limitations imposed on her by multiple sclerosis, yet she carried on without self-pity.
She also said that Perillo’s poetry was very accessible for someone who doesn’t come to poetry easily.
“She never lost her good humor or grace and never complained, right up to the end,” said longtime friend, poet and physical therapist Tim Kelly, who also spoke during the program.
He also described her work as simple and accessible when so much poetry is not. Perhaps most impressively, she made a living at writing poetry, Kelly said.
Another longtime friend, Jane Poole of Olympia, recalled meeting her when they both worked at Mount Rainier National Park.
She said Lucia loved the outdoors, wrote every day and was interested in everything around her, including Olympia’s arts scene.
“She figured out ways around her physical limitations,” Poole said.
Poole also described her as thoughtful, intelligent and filled with compassion and love.
Lacey Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt, a founding member of the Olympia Poetry Network, told the audience about a poetry group that met weekly at Saint Martin’s College in the early 1970s. Lucia began to participate in the early 1980s, Pratt said.
“I’ve known her a long time,” said Pratt, who read aloud a Perillo poem called “Dangerous Life.”
One reason she chose that poem is she remembered seeing the early drafts of it.
“I always found it a lot like her personality, and I think she would like me to read it,” Pratt said.